Cruel Intentions: the Musical, created by Jordan Ross, Lindsey Rosin, Roger Kimble, based on the film by Roger Kimble, based on the novel by Les Liasones Dangereuses Choderlos deLaclos. Tour direction by Kenneth Ferrone based on the original direction by Lindsey Rosin.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
Betsy Stewart, Brooke Singer, Dara Orland, Nicole Medoro, Taylor Pearlstein; photo: Jenny Anderson
". . . wishing so for dishonorable intentions."
A cast of ten players sing twenty iconic songs of the late 1990s while playing a remarkably potent version of the "Dangerous Liaisons" story set in New York City in 1999 in and around an expensive private school on the upper east side of Manhattan. With one exception no character is beyond the senior year in this prep school and while the girls are clearly young, the boys are not necessarily so. The game set up by two step-children, Kathryn Merteuil and Sebastian Valmont, has to do with the seduction of a sophomore, Cecile Caldwell. Sebastian, unfortunately, has fallen in love with Annette Hargrove and the complications this causes threatens to ruin the game. Kathryn suffers from a lack of honest emotions and she is absolute in her intentions, cruel and unthinking as they are.
A secondary story has been added, it seems, about a gay affair between an athlete and another boy. It adds little to the story except that with it in the show all the sexual bases are now covered. The athlete is played by John Battagliese and his secret boyfriend is played, I think, by David Wright. They both dance wonderfully well and present a very visual picture of their gay relationship.
Kathryn is a very dynamic, beautiful and attractive Taylor Pearlstein. As her step-brother and co-conspirator, Valmont, is Jeffrey Kringer, equally dynamic, beautiful and attractive. Two more perfect pieces of casting could not exist for this show (the first film version I ever saw of this story starred Gerard Phillipe and Jean Moreau when they were at their best).Pearlstein's edition of Garbage's song "Only Happy When It Rains" was a standout number in the second act.
Richard Crandle, John Battagliese, Jeffrey Kringer, David Wright, Aramie Payton; [photo: Jenny Anderson
As Cecile a remarkably talented young performer named Brooke Singer nearly stole the show with every dance sequence she appeared in. Her slow maturity into young womanhood was clearly marked in her dancing as she altered her style from funny/awkward to hilarious/matured. Each of her moments were clearly highlights of this quirky edition of the show. Jennifer Weber, the choreographer, was at her best with Cecile's numbers.
Annette, played by Betsy Stewart, was perfectly straigh-laced and delicate in her scenes and songs and made the perfect foil for Valmont's advances. Cecile's mother Mrs. Bunny Caldwell was played to a tee by Dara Orland. John Battagliese was excellent as the emotionally divided athlete Greg.
My only real problem (other than hearing the singing and dialogue at Proctors Theatre) was accepting the story in the hands of 15 to 18 year old kids. The sophistication of the story, and the wickedness it entails, belongs in the hands of older amoral people who enjoy despoiling their youthful targets. For those targets to be fellow shool-chums - even among the spoiled, rich, upper eastsiders - felt less than genuine.
The set (Jason Sherwood), costumes (Tilly Grimes) and lighting (Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew) design worked very well under Kenneth Ferrone's direction. The show has a lot going for it, principally in the talent department, but I would love to have heard more of the songs in order to tell how well they worked for the story. The audience, for the most part, seemed to know the lyrics to most of them and sang loudly along obscuring the voices on stage. For me it was more like a rock concert than a musical play. Still, I think it has strengths and should be appreciated.
This was the first stand on a one-night stand (principally) national tour and it may well be a prelude to a Broadway run. Who knows. It's based on a cult-classic film and could become a cult-classic show.